Several months ago, I received a Facebook request from someone I did not know. The photo of this young woman seemed slightly dated and she was standing next to another woman who looked vaguely familiar. Since I only use Facebook for people I have met or with whom I have mutual friends, I ignored the request and forgot about it.
A few days ago, this same woman sent me a message in Spanish basically wanting to know who I was. She inquired about my last name, Cholo. The name Dora Patricia Ayala Alcarez did not immediately ring a bell.
The way she asked the question was odd. Could Dora Patricia Ayala Alcarez be the sister I’ve never met?
I awkwardly responded in Spanish and told her my father’s name.
She appeared ecstatic over the news.
“Me siento muy contenta de que podamos comunicarnos ya que tu eres la unica hermana que tengo. Tambien tienes dos sobrinas…”
Translation: “I feel very happy that I could communicate with you, especially since you are the only sister I have. You also have two nieces…”
Rewind to 1998
I remember visiting my parent’s house. I went into the garage and grabbed a Guarana from my mom’s stash in the refrigerator. My father suddenly appeared and handed me a photograph. It appeared to be a picture of him as a very young man squatting next to a little girl at a park.
“That’s your sister,” he said abruptly. “You’re actually not the oldest daughter in the family.”
I was dumbfounded.
It would be an understatement to say he’s even remotely touchy-feely but, sheesh! The delivery of this news lacked in all sensitivity.
“Does mom know?” “How old is she?” “What is her name?” “Why are you telling me now?”
He gave me the bare minimum in details.
He left Colombia when my sister Patricia was about four years old. He never married her mother. She is seven years older than me. He hadn’t seen her since 1965, the year he emigrated to the United States. Oh yeah, and he just told my mother about her too.
As for what he knew of his oldest daughter? She has two daughters, was living in the city of Medellin and is a member of Jehovah’s Witness. She came into contact with my father through my paternal grandfather who had been living in Bogota with his young mistress and small child. My grandfather gave her my father’s address and she began writing him.
I asked my father if he had a photo of her. He rifled through some of her letters and found one that she had recently sent. I carefully studied the smiling dark-haired woman with the dark eyes and found what I was looking for.
Her face, from the tip of her nose up to her forehead, looked a lot like mine.
There was no doubt. We were sisters.
My father had obviously abandoned his daughter and her mother. My sister grew up without a father. Mother and daughter had little money and he never sent them any financial support. I felt sorry for her.
But in some ways, I grew up without a father myself. Even though he was physically present, he was never there emotionally. Now, they were corresponding through letters and email. I wonder if she was jealous of me? Or the other way around – was I jealous of her?
Besides our blood ties, what in the world would we have in common and how would we communicate? I know she grew up in Medellin, Colombia’s drug-cartel heaven, but has since moved to Barcelona, Spain. My Spanish could be better and she doesn’t know any English.
On top of everything, she’s a Jehovah’s Witness. Despite being brought up Catholic, I’m not religious and from what I understand, that’s not even a religion. It’s a cult. Aren’t they against dancing and any and all types of fun? If that's the case, she would definitely not like me and I would probably find her incredibly dull.
And how “close” has she become to my father? I have not seen him in almost a year and we don’t speak anymore (his choice). It’s likely she may be “closer” to him than I am.
I have to admit, however, that the one thing that intrigues me about all of this is I love the idea of being an aunt. I love kids.
My younger sister, not related by blood, was adopted as a baby from Colombia. Sadly, we are not close and she has no intentions of ever having children.
When I confronted my mother about this newfound sibling more than 10 years ago, she was understandably shaken. Her husband had kept this secret from her for more than 35 years. It was just another betrayal she had to process.
“Who knows?” she asked me in Portuguese. “He probably has other kids too.”
When I mentioned to her the other day that Patricia had contacted me, she shrugged. She knows my father still is in contact with her but she doesn’t know any details. They only met once and that was back in 1998.
There is no question my loyalties lie with my mother, especially now that my father and I are estranged. Over the years, I tried to forget about my sister – until now. Until she came looking for me on Facebook.
I have not yet “friended” Patricia or even responded to her since her last message. I might but I’m hesitant. So many unanswered questions. After all, I sometimes divulge personal details of my life on Facebook. Do I really want her to be privy to all of that?
Ahh…Facebook. See what you’ve done now?